Sydney AveyDynamic Women — Changing Times
I have always cherished Thanksgiving traditions. In unsettled times, traditional celebrations offer the illusion that God is in His Heaven and all is right with the world. Don’t get me wrong. I believe in God and the essential order of the universe. But these days, it’s not so easy to recreate the Norman Rockwell tableau of the traditional Thanksgiving my parents’ generation tried to imitate.
When I was growing up, the family gathered around the table to enjoy a bounty of good food and good conversation. My parents were excellent cooks. Mom set a beautiful table. But getting food to the table seemed like a marathon race where exhausted runners fall across the finish line.
We were a small family. The only guest I remember at our table was my Nana. As my sister and I married and had children, more chairs were pulled up to the table. Eventually, the celebration moved to my house. By that time, Thanksgiving had more of a potluck quality.
We always kept the TV off during dinner. Table conversation was the prescribed entertainment. When it veered off into politics or our children’s eating habits, the experience was painful. When the topic was a round-robin recitation of what everyone was grateful for or assigned readings on a Thanksgiving theme the evening went better. My dad, who I never saw read a book, would amaze us by reciting from memory a commemorative poem written in 1937 by Joseph P. Strauss, chief engineer of the Golden Gate Bridge.
New Thanksgiving Traditions
My parents are gone now, and the family is scattered. Our small clan will gather for Christmas, but we are all on our own for Thanksgiving. We are three households. My widowed son will eat dinner with his girlfriend at her grandmother’s house. My daughter, a single mom now, will take her chicks to a nearby resort for a festive time. We have plans with a neighbor to see a movie and eat in a restaurant that serves a traditional dinner. Restaurants that stay open on Thanksgiving and serve turkey with the trimmings are hard to find.
These days the traditional family seems more myth than reality. But perhaps that never was the point. The early pilgrims also missed sharing meals with family they left behind. Instead, they gathered with their community to share the bounty of the earth and begin the tradition we hold dear to this day. We search our hearts and offer thanks for the blessings we receive. The mere exercise of turning outward is healthy and healing. If we can’t share the holiday with family members, it is good to go where people gather. Goodwill seems to require critical mass.
I am grateful for the staff that will make dinner special for my mother-in-law in Arkansas, and for those who will cook for the rest of us. I am thankful for my friends and neighbors in Groveland who rallied to keep the community Thanksgiving Dinner alive. I’m pretty sure that’s where we would be if we weren’t in Arizona now. I appreciate my neighbors in Surprise, like Linda who walked by with her dog while I was writing this and spoke a cheerful greeting through my open door as she passed.
The time-out we get on Thanksgiving day to let go of grievances and instead pour extra measures of goodness, kindness, consideration, and charity into the atmosphere is a precious activity. May we hold thanksgiving in our hearts and allow love to grow.
© Sydney Avey